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Modern Healthcare: Momentum Renews to Protect Patients from Substance Abuse


WASHINGTON, DC – Momentum is building to ensure patients with substance use disorders receive access to qualify coordinated care, with bipartisan members of Congress, key stakeholders, and the administration supporting lifting barriers to opioid treatment by reforming 42 CFR Part 2.

Congress needs to pass the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, which would put the protection of substance use disorder records under HIPAA instead of 42 CFR Part 2. The bill helps to address the opioid crisis by ensuring that medical providers have access to the full medical history of patients suffering from substance use disorders.

Reminder: the bill passed alongside the SUPPORT Act by a sweeping bipartisan vote of 357-57 but was dropped by the Senate last Congress.

As Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) said when the bill was reintroduced in April by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), “this is one of the most significant policies we can address to continue our efforts to combat the opioid crisis.”

Reforming 42 CFR Part 2 is supported by the Trump administration, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and Capitol, and now the American Medical Association (AMA). With this renewed momentum, it’s time we continue the progress in the fight against the opioid crisis and pass the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act into law.

Lawmakers hoping to overhaul privacy rules for substance-use disorders

Modern Healthcare

By Susannah Luthi

Lawmakers are hoping Congress can pass a proposed overhaul of addiction-related privacy laws now that the American Medical Association is no longer opposed.

Hospitals badly want Congress to waive the statute known as 42 CFR Part 2 and its dictates that only substance-use disorder, or SUD, patients themselves can decide who sees their medical history. They argue that given the stakes with widespread opioid addiction, it’s risky to ban doctors from sharing medical histories when appropriate.

The Trump administration is also expected to release its regulatory changes to the so-called “Part 2” protections any day now, but it’s unclear how far officials can go in reshaping the law.

In the House, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is now leading the legislative push to match substance abuse disorder privacy laws with HIPAA rules. His lead co-sponsor is Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who fought last year, when Republicans had the majority in the House, to get the bill into Congress’ bicameral opioid legislation.

“If providers are unable to get the full picture of a patient’s condition, it can often have tragic consequences,” Blumenauer said in a statement to Modern Healthcare. “The AMA’s recognition of this has provided momentum in Congress to make meaningful reforms that will ensure physicians have all of the necessary information to provide care to all patients regardless of the possibility that they are suffering from a substance-use disorder.”

The bill was close to making it into opioid package, but the AMA expressly opposed it and the effort died.

Then in June of this year, the AMA’s House of Delegates changed its policy stance and voted to support alignment of 42 CFR Part 2 with HIPAA “for the purposes of treatment, payment and health care operations,” as long as appropriate safeguards are maintained.

The AMA delegates also voted to support sharing of substance-use disorder patient records “to improve patient safety and enhance the quality and coordination of care.”

Hospitals haven’t let up on their pressure for changes, as was clear from comment letters submitted to the CMS to aid the agency’s information-gathering for its Medicare red-tape initiative.

“Lack of access to a patient’s substance use records can result in a physician inadvertently prescribing opioids to a patient with a prior history of addiction,” Michael Griffin, vice president of political advocacy for AdventHealth, wrote. “Physicians need access to a patient’s complete medical history, including information related to any substance-use disorder, to ensure their patients’ safety.”

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Health (116th Congress)
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